Leaving Your Job to be a Full Time Coach

The vast majority of coaches face one common dilemma; when and how to leave your regular job so you can launch your full time coaching practice.

There are many factors involved in this decision, from financial to family to business knowledge. One of the most critical steps in this process is preparing to leave your existing job.

Preparation, planning, and your own emotions

Proper preparation and planning are key to a successful transition. In some cases, it might take many months or even a year or more before you’re ready to make the leap into full time coaching. During that time, you are likely to feel many conflicting emotions, such as excitement about making a change and guilt about planning for a change without telling your employer. These are perfectly normal feelings to have, but handling them appropriately is a big part of preparation and planning.

Let’s start with excitement. Once you have made the decision to make a change you feel energised and enthusiastic about the future. It’s exciting to think about pursuing your dreams, but there is a down side to all of this enthusiasm. It’s easy to become so caught up in excitement that you lose focus on your existing job or even start telling colleagues about your plans far too early in the process.

No matter how enthusiastic you feel, you absolutely must resist the urge to slack off on your job and start talking up your plans with others. When this happens, you put your professionalism (not to mention useful professional contacts) at risk. Think about it for a moment from your employer’s perspective. Would you be happy to have an employee who was openly talking about leaving and not devoting full attention to their job responsibilities?

Now let’s look at guilt. This is a very common feeling when you engage in planning and preparation while maintaining professional focus and performance at your existing job. You know you are doing everything right in terms of continuing to perform your job to the best of your ability, but in the back of your mind you feel guilty about ‘secretly’ planning to do something else.

It’s normal to feel this kind of guilt, but you have to remember you’re not doing anything unethical or inappropriate. As long as your job performance does not suffer, there is no reason why you should not move forward with preparation and planning for your coaching practice. Of course, you will need to speak with your employer eventually about your plans to leave your job, but that is generally not a problem if you give enough notice and have maintained your professionalism along the way. We’ll talk more about employer notification a bit later.

Practical steps of preparation and planning

So what, exactly, are the actual steps of preparation and planning? These can generally be divided into steps you can take at your current job and steps you can take outside of your current job. Some general examples of steps you can take at your current job are as follows:

  • Building up a coaching practice takes time, so begin taking practical steps before informing your employer of your plans to leave.
  • Make it a point to build up contacts with people inside and outside the organisation who may be useful in the future.
  • Network within your organisation, especially with people in Human Resources and in the Learning and Development department.
  • Take advantage of opportunities within your organisation, such as development initiatives, management training, and the like.
  • If you are offered an opportunity to coach someone at work, take it.
  • Build your profile by writing short articles for the staff magazine or intranet on topics related to personal development

Some general examples of steps you can take outside of your current job are as follows:

  • Join the society and/or professional association for your area of expertise, and volunteer to help with any mentoring or development programs offered.
  • Look for volunteer opportunities that allow you to network and practice using your coaching skills.
  • Become active in your local communities, joining and participating in any local groups relevant to your goals.
  • Network by making an effort to socialise more, spend time with friends, attend community events, and the like.
  • Join a social networking site such as LinkedIn or Facebook to connect with other people. Be sure to keep your profile clean and professional, and don’t promote your coaching practice until after you have notified your employer of your plans.
  • Learn all you can about starting your own business by attending workshops, seminars, and other classes on the subject. Try to do this outside of your regular work hours, but if necessary, take a day’s holiday from your job to attend.
  • Check out www.businesslink.gov.uk for information and advice on setting up your own business.

These are good, solid general examples of steps to consider before launching your coaching practice. It’s a good idea to do as much research as possible throughout this process to ensure you are giving yourself the best possible chance of success.

Telling your employer

Once you have done as much as possible to plan and prepare for the launch of your coaching practice, there comes a time when you need to tell your employer. This is a critical step, because the temptation is great to just give the minimum notice required under your contract and get out of there as quickly as possible. As difficult as it may be to resist this temptation, you absolutely must handle this final part of the process with impeccable professionalism and class.

As soon as you know you’re ready to make a change, sit down with your employer to share the news. Always give plenty of notice before your departure, and offer to help make the transition as smooth as possible. This serves two purposes; first, it doesn’t leave your employer in the difficult position of trying to fill in personnel in a hurry, and second, it preserves a good relationship with your employer so that they may be a future client for your practice.

Most employers will conduct an exit interview with you just prior to departure, providing you an opportunity to provide feedback and give general insights to the organisation. Never use this interview to give strong criticism or make negative comments. Always use this interview to express how much you have enjoyed working there (even if you haven’t) and maintain a positive attitude. In other words, don’t burn any bridges behind you because you never know when you might need to go back to them as a potential client.

What are your thoughts? Do you agree or disagree? Have you your own experience in this area that you would like to share? We welcome our members contribution. If you have a success story or something to add please feel free to add your comments below.


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